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Surat’s diamonds set to steal Antwerp’s dazzle

Wednesday 13 April 2005, by BOSE*Sushmita

in Surat

Call it ironic. Diamond traders in Surat operate from the Hira Bourse in a building called the Belgium Tower, right next to Belgium Square. But most of them don’t know, or probably don’t care, that their city is set to overtake the Belgian city of Antwerp as the diamond processing centre of the world.

This is not surprising because it seems most of the 15,000 diamond merchants here would rather keep a close watch on the finishing (cutting and polishing) of rough diamonds in their factories than read reports like the one about Surat ’stealing’ Antwerp’s diamonds in Flemish weekly Knack.

Jivrajbhai Surani, owner of JB Diamonds that exports Rs 10,000 crore worth of polished diamonds, is one such trader. He spends most of his day staring at the three CCTVs across his desk. Though he insists it’s for quality control, everyone knows he’s just making sure the stones stay where they are supposed to.

Antwerp has been steadily losing business to India. Ninety-two per cent of business (in carat terms) now comes to India, and Gujarat grabs 95 per cent of it. In real terms, the cutting/polishing business in India is worth Rs 50,000 crore of which Surat accounts for Rs 30,000 crore.

One reason for this surge in trade is that in Antwerp, more than 70 per cent of the trade is controlled by Indians who outsource cutting/polishing to India. In fact, an Indian owns Belgium’s largest diamond company, Rosie Blue.

Surat’s traders now have their eyes on a bigger pie. "India has to progress from cutting/polishing, which accounts for $14 billion, to setting, designing and trading that accounts for $56 billion," says Nanu Vanani, president, Surat Diamond Association

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